Somy Ali

“I really wanted to create a movement with So-Me” – Somy Ali

Somy Ali has perhaps come full circle in her life. She started out as a Bollywood actress in an unhappy relationship with a superstar. Ali decided to quit the industry, let go of her love association and get on with life, “I was eager to do a 180 and focus on education rather than spending the rest of my life in superficiality. Therefore I decided to leave Mumbai in 2000 to get my bachelor’s degree in psychology in Florida.” To her credit, she attained a Masters degree in Journalism, and later a degree in film making to quench her thirst for documentary film making. However, it was only a few years later she began her diligent advocacy for Humanitarianism and came up with the ever so unique, So-Me Designs. “I was annoyed with the “Who needs a brain when you have these” and other vulgar tees going around and made it a mission to counter those with sexy, yet, intellectual clothing. Hence, So-Me was born in September 2007,” she tell Roshni Magazine. Read on hear more about her journey thus far, her battles and the passage she has planned.

Do you have any background in fashion?
None. But I have learned a great deal and made many mistakes along the way. My brother, Mohammad, joined So-Me in 2008 to handle sales and production and he has been a huge asset to the company. He and I both have our strengths and weaknesses and we try to focus on the former.  My brother has a great business sense which complemented my desire to change the world.

How did you develop this idea of fashion with awareness?
I really wanted to create a movement with So-Me. My background in doing talk shows on social issues in college and then making short films on women’s rights for nonprofits are all intertwined with So-Me’s mission.

We all are a walking advertisement with our clothes for many corporations whose only goal is to make money and I wanted to walk around wearing something noteworthy by being a voice for those who are voiceless. I wanted to take a stand against injustice with my clothing line as well as No More Tears (NMT), my nonprofit.

So-Me tee’s are fashionable and yet each individually speak a thousand words. How do you find a balance between both so it doesn’t lean one way or another?
That’s exactly what I wanted. I wanted to be sexy, yet intellectual, sophisticated, yet an activist. Although I must admit, it’s not easy to come up with how we can take something negative, a human rights issue, into something positive and sexy. We decided to focus on how things should be rather than how they are. Nobody wants to go to his or her closet and wearing depressing designs that depict the injustices that occur to the helpless.  So we face a challenge where we want people to know about all the bad in the world, yet we have to make it look good.

How is the money raised used for humanitarian causes?
Ten percent of the net profit goes to NMT. NMT is my nonprofit to help rescue domestic violence victims and their children that are brought to the U.S. via arranged marriages.

There are so many issues So-Me Design associates itself with: animal abuse, racism, social issues, environmental concerns and so on. How did you manage to incorporate many various organizations to be a part of your clothing line?
We approached nonprofits that are doing good and saving lives. They were immediately interested in joining us in our mission.

How socially conscious would you consider yourself and which issue disturbs you the most?
I am learning every day. But I do my share of recycling, planting trees and of course So-Me is green. What disturbs me the most is when people are apathetic towards the environment, when people do not understand the threats of global warming are real.  However, it is hard to say which issue disturbs me the most.  There are many issues that affect so many every day that it is difficult not to be disturbed by all of them.

How much of an activist are you personally?
I am an activist in any situation there is a need to be one. It could be for men, women, children, or animals; I will not back down if I witness a wrongdoing. We cannot live this life in apathy and shake our heads from left to right complaining how awful things are. I am a Gandhi follower; he’s my hero. I will go all the way with my activism especially if it saves a life or helps someone obtain justice.

How hard or easy was it to get into mainstream fashion considering that fashion is extremely competitive in the U.S.?
It was very difficult and still is. We sell through our website and supply to high-end boutiques. Our sales representative, Lisa Finks, has been wonderful in getting our line in various boutiques all over South Florida. I still remember initially when I first started out on my own a few boutique owners turning us away and some not wanting to carry our “Human being” tee or anything with religious symbols. It is sad because that is one of So-Me’s goals. We want to emphasize that we are all one.  We want to love those that hate in order for them to change and love back.  That is what Gandhi did and was tremendously successful.

When do you feel you had “arrived?”
I would have to say when my brother joined So-Me in 2008. He is excellent at sales and advertising. I do not have a business mind so he and I were both in the office ensuring that we did not lose sight of our vision but also that we did not lose money. My brother definitely helped take So-Me to the next level.

How did you market yourself so that that famous personalities actually picked up a So-Me design and wore it while being pictured by the paparazzi? Which celebs are have been spotted wearing a So-Me?
Thus far, Fergie has been a huge supporter of So-Me. We have not made any specific efforts to reach out to celebrities. We are in the process of initiating a relationship with a PR firm in the near future.  However, it is great that a celebrity shares that same vision as we do.

Where do you see So-Me designs headed in the next few years? Perhaps more international?
Our goal is to reach people that want to create change all over the world. Even now, we get orders on our website from South Asia, Europe and of course various parts of the U.S. Eventually I want So-Me stores everywhere.  I have to leave the details to the first store opening but will let you know that they will be very unique in their décor.

Any chances we’ll see you back on the big screen or are you going to keep with direction and script writing?
Now it is all behind the scenes for me. I am not undermining my life as an actor, but I believe being an activist and making a change is my true calling. This is what I was born to do. I mean I am saving lives through No More Tears, literally!  Movies may bring people joy but it is no comparison to changing lives.

Do you miss being in the limelight in India as opposed to the more anonymous life in America?
Yes, of course I do. Who would not miss a life of people being at your beck and call? But that was a different life all together and I was younger back then. I enjoyed it for what it was. Now in my thirties, this is a different chapter, a chapter where I deem myself accountable for my actions and try to make others for theirs.  Life is not what people think of you; it is about what you think of people.

What do you miss most about India and Pakistan? What is one thing you always do when you head back home?
I have not been back since 2000, which is basically when I left India. I miss the authenticity of both cultures, in terms of the food, the family getting together, and my friends that I left behind.

Any message for your fans?
Be a non-conformist. Never let society dictate the way you should live your life, as long as you are not hurting anyone in the process. And above all, always try your best to do the right thing.  Help people especially those who everyone else has forgotten.

~Roshni M.
(June 2009)

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